Research Proposal: Interactive technologies in a second language (L2) classroom Lynnette M. Earle (80034119) The University of British Columbia

INTERACTIVE TECHNOLOGIES IN A L2 CLASSROOM Introduction Teaching a second language incorporates many different skills. Learning a language is about reading comprehension, listening comprehension, spoken and written production, and spoken interaction. Areas of particular concern in teaching second languages are the idea of grammar instruction and listening comprehension, which many students have an abhorrence to do in class and are reluctant to engage with the material. The students, therefore, do not find grammar or listening meaningful until the final exam, when it is too late. With the concept of 21st century learning, there are new methods and strategies the Ministry of Education proposes to teachers constantly. One such strategy is the integration of Web 2.0 interactive technologies that allow for more individualized and collaborative learning. Web 2.0 interactive technologies are vast in number and types. For the purpose of this research


proposal, Google Docs and YouTube will be explored within the context of a high school socialconstructivist setting in order to increase student motivation to learn a second language and thus increase fluency. This study will investigate whether students that participate in a studentcentered environment become more active learners, and thus more fluent and engaged with the target language, as opposed to the passive learner. A student-centered environment allows the learner to pace him or herself and discover new ideas and concepts on their own. Many teaching environments are teacher-centered where the teacher is omniscient and lectures to the class while students sit passively taking notes and doing textbook-seat work. In a student-centered environment, the teacher is aware of his or her students’ prior knowledge and misconceptions, is cognizant of different cultural aspects, and is attentive of what each student can bring to the learning context (Anderson, 2008). In this type of environment, paired with social-constructivist theories, active learning where students

INTERACTIVE TECHNOLOGIES IN A L2 CLASSROOM communicate, and do tasks together, is essential in 21st century classrooms. Ullrich, Borau, Luo,


Tan, Shen, L. and Shen, R. (2008), describe socially oriented constructivist theories, as those that stress the collaborative efforts of groups of learners as sources of learning. Statement of Research Questions Students, who learn in social-constructivist classroom settings utilizing technology supported Web 2.0 interactive technology such as Google Docs or YouTube, are more engaged, active learners. The purpose of this study is to examine how group work on learning and using grammar set in relevant vocabulary contexts is meaningful to students and intrinsically motivates them to become active learners. Further to the study, the research will examine whether students would actively seek clarification on grammatical concepts via educational videos on YouTube, and, as a result, encounter or be encouraged to find and pursue an understanding of other listening resources of their choice in the target language and share them with each other. The proposed study aims to answer the following central question and guiding questions to shape the study.

1. Would a technology supported social-constructivist approach to teaching placed in a Web 2.0 learning environment improve student motivation and interaction with a second language? a. Will students engage in collaborative learning in or about a second language? b. Will students actively search for video explanations of difficult grammatical concepts for clarification? c. Will students actively seek authentic listening in the target language (L2) and attempt to understand it?

INTERACTIVE TECHNOLOGIES IN A L2 CLASSROOM This study will seek to provide second language teachers with new strategies and assist in developing a teaching philosophy for their classrooms. Review of Related Literature Language Learning Approaches and Educational Trends Alm (2006) begins by explaining that Web 2.0 is much more dynamic and interactive


than the previous Web 1.0 era. It describes how the reader or user has become an integral part of the Internet. The reader/user has gone from being an observer to a contributor. Specific examples of the changeover are webpages to blogs or wikis, and separate applications for email, chat, photos, etc. to social networking such as MySpace or Facebook. Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) is a teaching philosophy that incorporates constructivist theories. Alm (2006) separates motivation into two diverging views: one model that ties it to the tool itself (e.g. vocabulary training software) and the other model that explains the concept of intrinsic motivation where the learner wants to explore his/her surroundings. The first model, based on behaviourist theories such as that of Skinner, is linked to having some sort of stimulus the subject must respond to in some way and, thus, will receive immediate feedback and reinforcement. On the other hand, intrinsic motivation, or the self-determination model, focuses on how to support the subject’s own predisposition to learn (Alm, 2006). Language learning and teaching approaches emphasizing that people learn better in a social context where they can take on new ideas and provide enough of a challenge, are part of the self-determination theory that has three needs: relatedness, competence, and autonomy, which must be met for optimal learning (Alm, 2006). Thus, a motivating environment needs to support these needs. Web 2.0 interactive technologies are one such way to help support this motivating environment by providing opportunities for learners to easily interact with others no



matter their physical learning environments (face-to-face or online) which contributes to the need of relatedness. Web 2.0 resources also support the need of competence by making it easy to locate information and receive informative, constructive feedback. Since the many Web 2.0 applications have the ability to be personalised, users still attain autonomy. For example, Google’s drive options and connection to YouTube all allow for individual creation and personalization users can share with others (Alm, 2006). Language learning in the 21st century has taken on a completely new way of learning and interacting because of the advent of applications such as Internet TV, video-sharing, online recorders, blogging (vlogging: video blog and/or glogging: graphics blog), etc. The Internet has provided teachers and learners of second languages with resources, both authentic and teacher created, at their fingertips. Authentic material, also known as realia, refers to real objects, specimens or artifacts (not copies), such as newspapers, magazines, catalogues, timetables, films, telephone books, menus, tickets,radio, and video (Berwald, 1987). It is clear that a technology supported social-constructivist approach to teaching placed in a Web 2.0 learning environment can improve student motivation and interaction with a second language if the students are only provided with this opportunity. However, this piece of literature is lacking evidence of Web 2.0 language learning and possible results in a real-life context. The Eaton (2010) research report helps those involved with education to understand the current trends in language education. Eaton (2010) explains how knowing a second language is no longer a ticket to a higher-level job or even international jobs because language is only one of many required skills in the 21st century. Eaton (2010) also explains how other trends such as saying that learning languages is easy, authoritative teaching, complaints about cutbacks and lack of funding, and language labs are all outdated. Today’s digital world, from audio exposure to



reading materials, is readily available at little to no cost on the Internet. Language learning in the 21st century requires many new trends. These trends include clear, provable demonstrations of learning, frameworks, benchmarks and other asset-based approaches to assessment, individualized, customizable, learner-centered approaches, proving the value of language learning through stories and speech, using technology for language learning, linking language learning to leadership skills, and showing funders the impact their investment has on our students, our communities, and our world. According to Eaton (2010), old, authoritarian models of teaching and assessment are evolving into new, more collaborative models where students are guided, coached, and mentored. Combined with having information readily available through the advancements of technology and geographical and physical boundaries diminishing, language learning has taken on a more learner-centered, collaborative, technologically driven trend that empowers students to want to learn another language and communicate with others around the world and in real time. Therefore, language learning in the 21st century in a technology supported social-constructivist approach to teaching would indeed improve student motivation and interaction with a second language. This research report provides valid arguments of what the global trends in 21st century language learning are, but it does not show or prove how these trends are a reality. Further research into this area is needed in order for teachers to see why old teaching practices need to change, and the new trends for language acquisition are justifiable and actually work. Technology-enhanced language learning, also known as TELL, is a similar term to CALL. Rüschoff and Ritter (2001) discuss how language learning and teaching has gone from behaviourist and cognitive theories to constructivism, which they deem as the proper paradigm for language learning in the 21st century. Rüschoff and Ritter (2001) believe language learning is

INTERACTIVE TECHNOLOGIES IN A L2 CLASSROOM a process that is interactive and dynamic where learners acquire new knowledge via situations where students can explore and discover sources and resources. They also insist that successful learning, which engages the learner in the construction of knowledge, should be shareable (Rüschoff & Ritter, 2001). The article also describes the concept of template-based learning that aims to provide learners with constructionist learning scenarios. Rüschoff & Ritter (2001) state that “The principle function of template-based learning is to provide a framework for gathering information, stimulating recall of prior knowledge, and for guiding processes of knowledge


construction. Templates help in creating more authentic tasks for learning and require the kind of high order thinking skills which are needed in the knowledge society” (p. 228). They also argue that language-learning theories have shifted from being quite teacher-centered to a learning environment in which constructivism allows for a much more learner-centered paradigm for learning. Research Studies The combination of language learning and computers is not a simple task. According to Greenfield (2003), who present data from a qualitative case study examining secondary ESL students' attitudes toward and perceptions of a collaborative e-mail exchange between two different schools, states there is a lot of teacher set-up and planning in order for a well-designed computer-mediated communication (CMC) exchange to take place. In the study, which transpired in 1999 involved two schools, one in Hong Kong and one in Iowa during a 12-week period, incorporated new, student-centered paradigms; an integrated approach for combining computers and language learning; and academically sound pedagogy, methods, and theory for teaching secondary ESL students (Greenfield, 2003). Even though there were limitations to the study (self-reporting, duration, number of participants, lack of existing research for developing

INTERACTIVE TECHNOLOGIES IN A L2 CLASSROOM CMC exchanges), the quantitative data from pre- and post- surveys showed a small, but statistically significant, increase in students’ general confidence in the four language skills of reading, writing, speaking and listening (Greenfield, 2003). In addition, the qualitative data showed there was a strong sense of student support for collaboration. Similar to the Greenfield (2003) study, Warschauer’s (1996) study showed that students had more equal and increased participation in electronic discussions and used a higher level of language than in the face-to-face discussions. This study also reported that students felt they could express themselves more freely, comfortably, and creatively in the electronic discussions (Warschauer, 1996). In addition, students felt less stressed in the electronic discussion than the face-to-face discussions and the exchanges were longer. However, the electronic discussion had fewer interactional features such as questioning, recasting, confirmation checks, and


paraphrasing than the face-to-face discussion contained (Warschauer, 1996). Warschauer (1996) suggested using electronic discussions as an introduction to face-to-face oral discussions. Sullivan and Pratt (1996) investigated the differences in attitudes toward writing with computers, writing apprehension, and growth in writing in two ESL writing environments and whether the nature of participation and discourse were different in a networked computerassisted classroom and a traditional oral classroom. Sullivan and Pratt (1996) found that there was a greater overall improvement of language skills in the computer-assisted classroom than in the oral classroom. Writing skills in the computer-assisted classroom increased significantly while these scores in the oral classroom actually decreased. However, turn-taking patterns in discussions in the oral classroom were greater than in the computer-assisted classroom. This study found that the discussions in the computer-assisted classroom were more focused than that of the oral class even though more talk occurred (Sullivan & Pratt, 1996). In accordance with

INTERACTIVE TECHNOLOGIES IN A L2 CLASSROOM Greenfield (2006) and Warschauer (1996), this study too showed that student participation was greater in the computer-assisted classrooms. Sullivan and Pratt (1996) furthered this finding by noting that “not only were all students participating, the teacher’s role was minimized-the students controlled the flow of the discourse in their classroom. The opposite pattern was found in the oral class where the teacher dominated the discussion” (p. 499). This study also showed


that the students’ amount of writing increased, were more interested in the discussions, and were more focused. Web 2.0 Learning Environments The term Web 2.0 refers to the social use of applications that distinguish themselves from previous generations of software that allows people to collaborate, to create content actively, to generate knowledge, and to share information on the Internet. According to Ullrich et al. (2008), these uses are in line with modern educational theories such as constructivism and connectionism, making Web 2.0 applications useful for teachers and learners. Ullrich et al. (2008) outlines a number of principles that Web 2.0 tools offer and their pedagogical affordances. Pedagogically, Web 2.0 allows for individual creativity that harnesses active participation in user-friendly, simple desktop-like interfaces. Web 2.0 also harnesses the power of the crowd by encouraging active contribution and being a member of a community. Web 2.0 interactive technologies contain diverse data on an epic scale including text, pictures, bookmarks, maps, and indexes. In this environment, learners can use data as building blocks to create new content; also known as mixing or mash-up content. Of course, this abundance of data comes with problems such as licensing, plagiarism, and disappearing data. Web 2.0 tools also have architecture of assembly that allows the user to create a personalized learning environment (PLE) that is easily accessible. One of the benefits of Web 2.0 tools in the 21st century is that

INTERACTIVE TECHNOLOGIES IN A L2 CLASSROOM users can access and manipulate them on many different types of devices, from computers to tablets to smart phones. In addition to the pedagogical affordances of Web 2.0, there are also bonuses for research (Ullrich, et al., 2008). Twitter and are two examples of such tools that users can use as social bookmarks with the capability of annotation. This article provides a number of explanations and possibilities for the use of Web 2.0


interactive technologies in an educational setting that stimulate active participation. Therefore, it is likely that further research that incorporates such tools would not only show increased collaborative engagement with a second language, but also overall improvement of student motivation and interaction with a second language. Google Apps is a collection of web-based applications composed of communication and productivity tools (Herrick, 2009). Herrick (2009) presents an article overviewing each Google app and discusses the potential of teamwork and the interoperability between Google Apps and other external applications. Herrick (2009) includes a brief case study of Colorado State University that migrated to Google Apps as their email solution for students. After implementation, not only students, but also faculty and staff, began using Google Apps because of the capabilities that Google Apps offer that enhance collaboration and communication amongst users. Specific to the proposed research, Google Docs is an office suite that includes word processing, spreadsheet, slide show presentations, etc. The mobility of Google Apps is a key feature that allows users to access and edit anywhere there is an internet connection (Herrick, 2009). Google Docs edit ability allows multiple users to collaborate on documents in real-time. However, there is a brief lag in editing, a possible argument against its synchronous definition.



This ease of collaboration in Google Docs, where up to 10 multiple editors can make changes on the same document simultaneously, is Google Docs greatest benefit (Herrick, 2009). There is also a sidebar chat feature within the applications in order to discuss the document while editing it all on one page. Once a user creates the documents (or spreadsheets, etc.) he or she can easily share the document with others via the sharing of rights as viewer or collaborator, as an attachment, or as a URL link. Although Google Apps enhance communication and collaboration, there are setbacks for educators. In Canada, and more specifically BC, laws that protect their students bind teachers. The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIPPA) creates a roadblock for teachers because Google Apps is housed in the United States and falls under the Patriot Act, which impinges on Canadian privacy laws. However, there are ways around this obstacle such as having students access the application via a link and not having the students be the owners of the documents and simply open collaborators. This solutions still allows students to engage in collaborative learning in or about a second language or other subject. Jones and Cuthrell (2011) discuss the potential uses and challenges for educators of YouTube as a Web 2.0 tool, as well as evaluation methods for YouTube videos. YouTube as an educational tool has many uses across the curriculum from film studies to war clips to grammar instruction. This Web 2.0 tool can inspire students to create their own video projects and share them with each other and/or the world that allows teachers to collect easily, mark, and share with their students for class projects. According to Jones and Cuthrell (2011), visual images, written text, dialog, sound effects, and background music are the ultimate learning tool to stimulate the brain, and teachers who use YouTube can capture the attention of students for any given lesson.



These videos can introduce new concepts, convey information for instruction, or close lessons by recapping important points (Jones & Cuthrell, 2011). YouTube, however, does have its pitfalls, such as classroom availability due to blocked websites, intellectual property laws such as the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act in Canada, and the possibility that a video may not be available due to deletion. YouTube is an open site that frequently adds and deletes videos from the site daily. Jones and Cuthrell (2011) suggest that teachers use sites such as to convert legally YouTube videos to files to save and view later, but state that “teachers must be cautioned against using the technology simply because it is there. “Verifying the credibility of each video that is viewed and evaluating each one for quality is a must when maximizing the YouTube experience for students” (Cuthrell, 2011, p. 83). Jones and Cuthrell (2011) offer many examples of how YouTube can be used in a classroom for educational purposes and explain possible drawbacks of the tool. However, the article has a narrow focus of school subject examples. They mainly focus on the use of YouTube in a Social Studies setting. For the purposes of this research proposal, there is further research on the use of YouTube for a language class. The use of YouTube is a way in which students can actively search for video explanations of difficult grammatical concepts for clarification, and, in the process, discover new concepts or videos in the target language that are of interest to them.

Methodology For the proposed research study, I will use the action research method to solve everyday problems in my school in order to improve student learning and teacher effectiveness (Gay, Mills, & Airasian, 2012). This method will allow me to describe and explain how a technology

INTERACTIVE TECHNOLOGIES IN A L2 CLASSROOM supported social-constructivist approach to teaching placed in a Web 2.0 learning environment would improve student motivation and interaction with a second language. Participants


Participants selected for this study are students who attend Chilliwack Secondary School, a school of about 1050 in the lower mainland, Fraser Valley region of British Columbia, Canada. The participants included in this study will be 40-60 students that make up two different Spanish 11 classes. The students will range in age from 15 years to 17 years old. These students have generally taken one semester to one year of Spanish prior to entering the course. This group of participants was chosen because novelty of the language is no longer a motivation for them and because it is at this level that grammar structures become more difficult, as well as the increased expectation for listening comprehension. Students are extrinsically motivated to complete the course with a decent grade as it is considered by many universities an entrance requirement, but they have difficulties with the language that cause them to lose motivation to learn the language and thus interact with it less. Entry-level students will not be included in this study because they are already very motivated to learn the new and novel language (which is not French). They automatically start to interact with the language and find it easy to learn at this level. Spanish 12 students will not be included because they too are very motivated to continue their studies of the language because they personally love the language or they have a gift for language learning, making it easy and fun for them. I will recruit participants from previous entry-level classes, as this is a pre-requisite for the Spanish 11 course. The recruitment process happens within the entry-level courses themselves, as well as during information sessions about courses offered at the school.



For this study, there are a few ethical considerations. First, it is important to note that my personal and professional ethical perspectives are closely aligned. Because the participants are under age high school students, they will first go through an informed consent process prior to the study. This consent will ensure that the researchers will not harm the students in any way, and will not divulge their names or identity in the study. As a teacher under the British Columbia Teacher’s Federation (BCTF), I am aware of any ministry guidelines and/or standards (Prescribed Learning Outcomes) that are required in both of the classes. Instruments or Materials The study, although non-experimental in nature as it is action research, will only use qualitative research instruments for data collection. These instruments will include student questionnaires, classroom observation, post- and pre-tests of grammar points and listening comprehension skills covered in both classes, and student reflections of learning. I will develop the student questionnaires most likely using for ease of student completion and data collection. Here is a list of sample questions for: 1. pre-study questionnaire a. How often do you use a computer? b. Do you have computer/internet access? At home? At school? c. Do you have an email address? d. Do you use social media? e. Do you use any other online applications? f. For what do you use the computer? g. Are you required by any course or teacher to use a computer? If so, for what?

INTERACTIVE TECHNOLOGIES IN A L2 CLASSROOM 2. Reflection (topics and questions will vary depending on group) Topics: changes in attitude towards computers and language learning; effect of computer background on attitude, interest, and motivation; perception of their acquired reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills; and attitude towards collaborative learning. a. Do you feel that you learned the grammar points better or worse than in a traditional setting? b. Did you use YouTube to help you better understand concepts? c. Did you come across other videos in Spanish that were of interest to you? d. How well do you think you understood the videos? e. Did you like learning in this type of environment?


f. Would you prefer to learn in a more traditional or modern classroom setting? g. Do you like collaborative learning? I will conduct classroom observations on a daily basis recording findings on the amount of student time on task, how often students ask questions or for help, what they need help with (related to the language vs. computer skills), interaction among students via Google Doc chat features, equality of participation, etc. Before and upon completion of the learning module, I will administer pre- and post-tests of grammar points and listening comprehension skills in both classes to see if and how students improve. These tests will be a combination of multiple choice, fill-in-the-blanks, true and false, and matching. In addition, students will have to complete a writing task before and after the study to see if their overall writing skills improve. I will develop, administer, and evaluate all of these instruments. The instruments will hopefully give me insight into whether or not a technology supported social-constructivist approach to teaching



placed in a Web 2.0 learning environment actually improves student motivation and interaction with a second language. More specifically, these instruments should be able to tell me if students will engage in collaborative learning in or about a second language, if they will actively search for video explanations of difficult grammatical concepts for clarification, and if they will also seek authentic listening in the target language (L2) and attempt to understand it. Procedure This study will take place in the regular classroom with and without the use of portable laptop carts. The classroom is a generic classroom made up of tables and chairs, screen and projector, and other classroom materials such as book resources. The classroom is part of a school located in the lower mainland of BC in the city of Chilliwack. The school is located in the downtown area where the social economic status is lower than the rest of the city (University of British Columbia, 2012). In this study, there will be few roles. I will act as both the researcher and teacher. As a researcher, I will keep record of the participants and their informed consent, the instruments, collection of data, and data analysis. As a teacher, I will make sure that all students meet the prescribed learning outcomes as set by the Ministry of Education as well as fairly evaluate the students throughout the course of the research. The students will also play the role of participants in the study creating the two different Spanish 11 classes. The language department head will also play a role for observational discussions about the study. Lastly, the administrators will ensure that I abide by all district and school rules. Research Design and Analysis I will use student questionnaires to collect data about student computer use. This data will be analysed via I will do classroom observations and will analyse the



results through a discussion with my department head of the results. I will collect language skill data via pre- and post-tests of grammar points and listening comprehension skills covered in both classes, and overall writing skills. This data will be analysed via department approved evaluation standards. Lastly, I will collect student reflections of learning to identify student perceptions of the learning environment, their language skills, and opinions. I will analyse this information via as well. The data collection instruments will be qualitative in nature; however, similar to that of an experimental research method, there will be two groups studied in order to compare them. The two groups will compare a new approach to teaching to an existing approach. The group using the new approach will be in a technology supported social-constructivist Web 2.0 learning environment, where the other class will not. Schedule of Activities Major Activities 1. Recruitment of participants Timeline - February 2013 (student course selection processes including mini-informational sessions and in-coming grade 9 night) - June 2013 (timetable completion and last minute changes to student timetables based on completed course work) - August 2013 (continuation of timetable completion and last minute changes to student timetables based on completed course work and new student enrollment) - September 2013 (week 1 of the school year where teachers introduce the course material and format to students) - September 2013 (during week 1 of the course) - September 2013 (during week 1 of the course) September and October 2013(during

2. Course introduction

3. First student questionnaire about student computer use 4. Pre-test of grammar points and listening comprehension skills, and overall writing skills 5. Classroom observations



6. Post-test of grammar points and listening comprehension skills, and overall writing skills 7. Final student questionnaire of reflection


the 3- to 4-week period of the module following week 1 of the school year). These observations will be conducted on a daily basis. October 2013 (at the end of the module) October 2013 (upon completion of the module and post-testing)


Discussion The purpose of this study is to identify whether a technology supported social-constructivist approach to teaching placed in a Web 2.0 learning environment would indeed improve student motivation and interaction with a second language. More specifically, the proposed research seeks to find out whether students will engage in collaborative learning in or about a second language, will actively search for video explanations of difficult grammatical concepts for clarification, and will actively seek authentic listening in the target language (L2) and attempt to understand it. The possible implications of the study outcomes are that I expect that students will indeed use the Web 2.0 tools and possibly others in order to interact and learn more about the language because the learning environment is conducive to their everyday out-of-school activities. However, I do believe that students may become bored if the same type of learning environment is used on an everyday basis in all of their education simply because each student has his or her own unique needs. The literature reviewed lends insight of various studies of similar, but unique circumstances of how a technology rich environment improves learning in the 21st century. The research of this proposal is primarily important for teachers of foreign languages, and even of courses such as English and Social Studies, because it offers examples of teaching and learning in action. This research is essential because there is a lack of research specific to teaching foreign languages and the specific skills of language learning. I have based



the proposed study in the valid and modern theoretical views of social-constructivism, which the BC Ministry of Education, as well as my own school and department, supports.



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University of British Columbia, (2012). Middle years development instrument: Chilliwack school district 33. The Human Early Learning Partnership. Retrieved from Warschauer, M. (1996). Comparing face-to-face and electronic discussion in the second language classroom. CALICO Journal, 13(2-3), p. 7-26. Retrieved from